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You could say learning a language is an art, or a craft, especially if you're as linguistically stunted as I am. Having studied French for five years in secondary school, you'd think I'd maybe be fond of or even good at it by Year Eleven. Sadly that was not the case and a pass was not to be. As I've got older and met thousands of people who can speak ten languages (OK, that's an exaggeration, the most a person I know can speak is four) I have not only basked in my own inadequacy but jealousy too. I want to be able to go abroad and jabber away about croissants in the baker's language. It could lead to a beautiful friendship and hopefully free pasties in future if my pronunciation is good enough.

Sadly the most I can do right now is strut into a shop and cheerfully shout hello. But with the help of Duolingo, an online platform to aid language learning, I might have progressed to talking about whole cakes this time next year. Maybe I'll even become a baker.

Duolingo creator Luis Von Ahn has that same faith in the platform's 40 million users, saying in a recent Guardian interview that Duolingo is a way to 'deliver education to everyone'. Totally free to use, once you sign up you can either download the app to your phone or simply use the website. The best thing about Duolingo is that it is – shock horror – fun. Determined to recap my limited French skills, I tried the app just before summer and found it much better than struggling through speaking assessments about my weekend activities. If you're doing GCSE French, you will have to experience this same pain.

Rather than being sat opposite a frowny woman stuttering in a shaky accent, you progress through levels, earning points as you go. The platform goes through all major components of learning a language – writing, reading, speaking and listening. Its only downfall is that there's no virtual baker you can discuss doughnuts with.


Once I tire of French, I could pursue Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish and even Gaelic, with more languages coming soon. If you're already doing language lessons at school, Duolingo is the perfect aid to recapping. There's no doubt it would be a great help with homework.
What if you're already pretty good at introducing yourself and discussing your lunch choice last Wednesday? There's even an advanced option, taking you through everything from politics to how to say that you have seen a man holding a pig.

Sadly I wasn't given any free chocolate éclairs from Duolingo to tell you about it, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a go. I'll understand.


Luis Von Ahn interview:



Duolingo can be accessed via or the app store on Apple and Android devices.


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